Russia Publishes Footage of Su-35 Production for Egypt: 21 Now Complete as U.S. Pressure Rises to Cancel Deal

Russian media outlets have published new footage of Su-35 heavyweight fighters under construction for the Egyptian Air Force to meet an order made in late 2018, which has confirmed that at least 21 of an estimated 24 fighters on order have been completed. This follows indications in June 2021 that 17 of the fighters had been completed to meet Egyptian orders, with the fighters built at the Komsomolsk-on-Amur aircraft plant in Russia's Far East. The images highlight that production is ongoing and that, contrary to widespread claims from Western media sources, Egypt has not given orders to terminate the deal - which it would likely be too late to issue considering how far along production has come. The United States has sought to increase pressure on countries across the world to reduce ties with Russia following the outbreak of war in Ukraine, and has since 2019 when the deal was first announced threatened Egypt with economic sanctions should it proceed with its contract to acquire Russian fighters. Egypt has notably withstood this pressure, although the scale of its acquisitions of Russian arms are thought to have been curbed by the American threats issued. 

It was announced on March 15 by the head of the U.S. Central Command, General Frank McKenzie that Egypt had been granted permission to purchase the Su-35’s closest Western competitor the F-15 Eagle, in what appeared to be an effort to coax Cairo away from its Su-35 deal, although Egyptian interest in the American fighter has not been confirmed. The publication of new images of Su-35s in production has been speculated to be a response to the announcement of a possible F-15 deal. Egypt has been cautious regarding reliance on the United States for provision of military hardware, and particularly sensitive systems such as fighter aircraft, with the U.S. notably having embargoed the country in 2013 which seriously undermined its ability to launch key counterinsurgency operations against Islamist militants. The U.S. has also for decades heavily downgraded hardware and particularly fighter aircraft going to Egypt, and strictly controlled how aircraft can be used in Egyptian service including which airbases they can be deployed to and when they are permitted to fight. Russian aircraft such as the Su-35 have no such restrictions imposed. 

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